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The Nine Ministers ( ) was the collective name for nine high officials in the imperial government of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), who each headed a specialized ministry and were subordinates to the Three Excellencies. Historian Rafe de Crespigny, in his A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD), translates the titles of the nine ranking ministers into English as the (1) the Minister of Ceremonies (太常), (2) the Minister of the Household (光祿勳), (3) the Minister of the Guards (衛尉), (4) the Minister Coachman (太僕), (5) the Minister of Justice (廷尉), (6) the Minister Herald (大鴻臚), (7) the Minister of the Imperial Clan (宗正), (8) the Minister of Finance (大司農), and (9) the Minister Steward (少府).

The term Nine Ministers could also refer to the nine high ranking officials in the Ming Dynastymarker, namely, the respective functional heads of the Six Ministries, the Censorate, the Office of Transmission, and the Grand Court of Revision.

Minister of Ceremonies

The Minister of Ceremonies, usually described as a chief priest in the government, was responsible for ceremonies in the imperial ancestral temples and in charge of astronomy, astrology, and the daily records of the emperor's activities. He also supervised the operation of the Imperial Academy, selecting and examining the students. If they were suitable, he was also responsible to report their eligibility for office to the emperor.


In Han Dynasty civil service officials were classified in twenty grades (reduced to sixteen after 32 BC) expressed by the official's annual salary in terms of so many Dan (石) or Chinese bushels, extending from the ten-thousand-bushel at the top to the one-hundred-bushel at the bottom. Under this scheme, each of the nine ministers held the rank of the full-two-thousand-bushel.

In Ming Dynastymarker the officialdom was classified in nine grades, each grade subdivided into two degrees, extending from grade 1a at the top to grade 9b at the bottom. Under this system, the Ministers of the Six Ministries all held rank 3a, and rose to 2a after the abolishment of the Chancellor in 1380. The Censor-in-Chief, head of the Censorate, had a rank of 1b before 1380 and 2a after. The functional heads of the Grand Court of Revision and the Office of Transmission both held a rank of 3a.

See also


  1. Crespigny (2007), 1221–1224.
  2. Wang (1949), on pages 150–151, provides different English renditions for the Nine Ministers: (1) the Minister of Ceremonies (太常), (2) the Supervisor of Attendants (光祿勳), (3) the Commandant of Guards (衛尉), (4) the Grand Servant (太僕), (5) the Commandant of Justice (廷尉), (6) the Grand Herald (大鴻臚), (7) Director of the Imperial Clan (宗正), (8) the Grand Minister of Agriculture (大司農), and (9) the Small Treasurer (少府).
  3. Hucker (1958), 65.
  4. Wang, 151-152.
  5. Wang, 137.
  6. Hucker, 11.
  7. Hucker, 32.
  8. Hucker, 49.
  9. Hucker, 37.
  10. Hucker, 56.


  • Crespigny, Rafe de. (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220 AD). Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. ISBN 9004156054.

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